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Jesuits in Formation Assist with Family Reunification Efforts in El Paso

BY ISN STAFF | August 30, 2018 | EN ESPAÑOL

This summer, three Jesuits in formation arrived in El Paso at an unexpectedly crucial time.  

From July 17-26, Nazareth Shelter, one of several church-based, all-volunteer temporary shelters coordinated by Annunciation House, a forty-year-old organization committed to serving recent arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border, took on a temporary mission—receiving reunited parents and children who had been separated by the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy.

Rafael Garcia, S.J., associate pastor at Sacred Heart, the Jesuit parish in El Paso, with Conan Rainwater, S.J., Matt Cortese, S.J., and Matthew Baugh, S.J.

Conan Rainwater, S.J. (Jesuits Midwest Province), who served as temporary shelter director, coordinating volunteer shifts and meal groups, among other logistics, was joined by Matthew Baugh, S.J. (Jesuits Central and Southern Province) and Matt Cortese, S.J. (Jesuits Northeast Province).

They joined an extensive network of volunteers tasked with providing food, shelter, and basic material needs, in addition to helping families connect with family members in the U.S., coordinating travel plans, and providing transportation and accompaniment into the airport or bus station for families who were dropped off unannounced through the day and nighttime hours.

A reunified father and his nine-year-old daughter at Nazareth Shelter. The two were separated for 2 months, during which time she had a birthday. While in detention, he painted a birthday card for her. He gave her the painting on the day of reunification.

“Rather than coming in [to shelters] all at one time in a bus or two, as is the typical case for parents and minor children who are processed and released with ankle bracelets on the parents, the families came in small numbers in vans throughout the day and night,” shared Rafael Garcia, S.J., who serves migrant and refugee persons and is Associate Pastor at Sacred Heart, a Jesuit parish in El Paso, which is a member of the Campaign for Hospitality.

“This created chaos and stress for volunteers who don’t have information to plan in advance for the number of meals or volunteers needed at any given time. Conan, Matthew, and Matt were an invaluable support at Nazareth Shelter during this critical time.”

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